“The SandMaster is an attachment for a skid steer, backhoe or an excavator. It quickly fills, transports, securely closes, and places sandbags at or near the area of need. Its primary function is to facilitate flood prevention efforts and emergency response. This is a fast and efficient tool that can run circles around hand labor all day long and never tires. It saves time and money and is able to pay for itself quickly.

The SandMaster 20 attaches to a skid steer and is capable of producing 20 bags per cycle or 4,800 bags in an 8 hour day. The SandMaster 26 and 26 E attach to a front end loader or excavator respectively and are capable of producing 26 bags per cycle or 6,240 bags in an 8 hour day.

The attachments work equally well with other materials such as rocky soil, gravel and nursery and agricultural products. While the bags must be made to specifications, both polypropylene and biodegradable burlap bags work well with this attachment.

Source: BarrierSystems

Owen’s comments: This attachment should work fine for flood control work. It also has some potential for large scale housing relief operations, possibly in disaster situations. In most cases, however, the preferred earthbag method is filling bags on the wall to reduce labor. Most earthbags are larger (18”x30” is standard) and heavier than sandbags for flood control – nearly 100 pounds of moist earth (when tamped in the bag after each bucket load and filled to capacity) versus 60 pounds for smaller sandbags. The larger bags are desirable because they overlap more and create more stable walls.

For earthbag construction, something like this Bobcat mixing attachment (modified for filling earthbag tubes) seems more practical. Sooner or later someone will devise a suitable machine like this that will enable earthbag houses to be built in one day. The Bobcat or tractor could simply drive around the house all day as the attachment fills and guides tubes into place. Another machine would feed soil into the hopper of the first attachment. Pneumatic tampers driven by a large compressor (same as used in rammed earth building) would enable workers to keep pace with the other machinery.

My Sandbag Machines article has a sampling of some of the sandbag filling machines currently available.

10 thoughts on “SandMaster”

  1. Filling and placing bags [by hand] when you only have a few hundred or a couple of thousand may work best, but if you are creating a large earthbag building that would require thousands of bags or thousands of feet of tubing definately requires some level of mechanization to be efficient. I like the Bobcat attachment, it could be very useful.

    • Paul, I agree. I edited your comment slightly though for clarity and added “by hand”.

      Another option is to have very inexpensive labor. This is only possible in certain developing countries and not realistic for most. Some sort of mechanization is highly desirable. The machines that have been built so far are for filling sandbags for flood control, not for earthbag building. Filling tubes with a machine could go quite fast. I heard Cal-earth has experimented with this. I’m not sure, but I think they used a concrete pumper with a long boom: The truck is stationary and the boom is swung around as the tubes are filled. This would be a good way to deliver stabilized fill material such as cement stabilized crusher fines. Maybe I should do a blog post on this. The cost of the pumper would be offset by reduced labor. Use rapid set cement so work could continue unabated. This would make the most sense in areas with high labor costs and availability of pumper trucks.

  2. Why couldn’t you use the bucket to lift bags up to the wall? And are you saying this sandmaster won’t mate with bags that are big enough for a wall?

    • I’m not sure if this attachment will fill the large bags. I’m not sure if it would fill any size bags with the necessary moist fill. The soil has to be moist so the bags will compact into hard blocks. It’s difficult to scoop up moist soil, because it would tend to clump. Also, paying for a big piece of equipment like this to lift bags is not very efficient. What I described would go much faster.

  3. Thanks for introducing me to the SandMaster! Looks like an ideal solution to emergency situations, as well as a handy way to fill the bags for your shelter (as you pointed out).

  4. It is a cool idea…but…( and I am sorry to say that. Dont want to menospreciate pleople with good ideas!)
    but…there we go again! Trying to make things faster. Always running behind the clock. For me, the beauty of earthbag buildings is that you do it on your own, with your firnds, slowlly, you make your own house, you feel it grow, you take the effort…and with that thing…well, it is again the same.
    There is an excellent book about learning to grow food and live better lives “one strow revolution”. Worth reading.

    anyway, well done. It is a brilliant idea. All the best.

    • Yeah, I agree that’s the best way for most situations. But mechanizing the process may be required for building for profit by contractors. The cost of labor is typically too high otherwise.

      Also, there may be a middle ground between hand tools and big equipment. We explore various options on our blog to stimulate new ideas.

  5. Hello Owen,

    Great idea on the Bobcat mixing attachment. This idea can provide the grounds to think about similar devices that could improve the production when lighter material or alternative materials to our traditional earthbag mixes are used.

    Where I personally am dissappointed is with the other type of device (Sandmaster). We have a similar device stationary. We seldom use it because when using a clay mix the material tends to stick to the walls and blades and this makes the blades stop rotating. Maybe this machine shown here is different and has much more power and/or another blade system then ours.

    Such “Sandmaster” or simliar devices could work fine for just cement or for more liquid mixes but in our experience not for earthbag mixes.

    Our preferred method is still filling the earthbags on the wall but I would like to hear from others if they know of some other system/s, process or have experience on how to improve on speed in earthbag wall construction.


    • Moist soil likely will clump and not work properly in this situation. The operation could be modified to work for earthbags by using a second machine to pour the soil into the top of the attachment. More experimenting is required.


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